FANTASY PLAYS: Looking toward playoffs with waiver options
Fantasy owners can heave a sigh of relief now that the two worst bye weeks have passed.
Make certain you have replacements for any Colts, Bills, Lions and Raiders starters on your roster for Week 10. Overall, the waiver wire is still quite thin this week but with the fantasy playoffs just a few weeks away, you should be looking for some players on teams with favorable matchups scheduled during Weeks 13-16.
With that in mind, here are some players to consider for Week 10 and beyond.
JAY CUTLER (QB, Bears)
After missing five games, Cutler returned in Week 8 and completed 20 of 31 pass attempts for 252 yards and a touchdown against a tough Vikings defense. This week, the Bears face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose defense has allowed an average of 281 passing yards per game and 18 passing touchdowns. Only four teams have allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, making Cutler a good streaming choice or bye week replacement for Matt Stafford, Derek Carr or Andrew Luck owners.
JOE FLACCO (QB, Ravens)
Flacco is coming off a solid Week 9 performance in which the Ravens pulled off a stunning upset of the Steelers. Week 10 should be much easier for Flacco since he'll be facing a Cleveland Browns defense that has allowed an average of 275 passing yards per game and a whopping 22 passing touchdowns. Only one team (Falcons) has allowed more passing touchdowns and only five teams have fewer sacks than the Browns (14). Last week's return of WR Steve Smith was another positive that will only help Flacco perform better going forward.
ROBERT KELLEY (RB, Redskins)
Redskins coach Jay Gruden has anointed Kelley as the lead running back and stated that Matt Jones must earn his way back into the starting job. Kelley was sharp during his Week 8 debut as the starter, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown with his 21 carries. As long as he gets the bulk of the work, he'll be a worthwhile flex option.
KAPRI BIBBS (RB, Broncos)
Since C.J. Anderson was placed on injured reserve, the Broncos' rushing attack has floundered. Over the last two games, Devontae Booker has averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. Bibbs turned a short screen pass into a 69-yard touchdown against the Raiders, which was enough to earn him more of the workload going forward. At the very least, the Broncos will make this more a running back committee and if Booker continues to struggle, Bibbs could end up getting the majority of the touches.
PEYTON BARBER (RB, Buccaneers)
Antone Smith (knee) joined the ranks of the injured Bucs running backs and was placed on injured reserve. Jacquizz Rodgers (ankle) is still sidelined and Doug Martin (hamstring) has yet to return to practice. However, Martin is expected to practice sometime this week and perhaps start the Week 10 game. If Martin doesn't return, Barber will be the starter. He's worth a roster spot in the event he ends up as the last man standing in the Bucs backfield.
KENNETH DIXON (RB, Ravens)
Current starting running back Terrance West has averaged just 1.3 yards per carry over the last two games and hasn't done anything noticeable in the passing game. The Ravens' Week 10 game against the Browns could be the breakout game for Dixon that we've all been waiting for. The Browns have allowed an average of 146 rushing yards per game with a dozen rushing touchdowns. Dixon is a must-own handcuff to West and he's worth a roster spot in case he gets the starting role.
RONNIE HILLMAN (RB, Vikings)
The Vikings offense is in disarray and the rushing attack has suffered due to injuries on the offensive line. Jerick McKinnon has averaged just 1.3 yards per carry over the last three games and Matt Asiata is struggling as well. Hillman has received an increasing number of touches over the last three games and could see more action out of the backfield in the passing game. The Vikings have a very favorable schedule during Weeks 13-16, and Hillman could be getting 10-15 touches per game by then. He's worth stashing with an open roster spot.
JAMES STARKS (RB, Packers)
Starks is expected back on the practice field this week. While Ty Montgomery has filled in admirably as a running back, the Packers would undoubtedly like to have a true RB in there. Starks can handle a workload of 20-25 carries per game if he's completely healthy. He's no more than a flex option, though.
STEVE SMITH (WR, Ravens)
There is no question that Smith is QB Joe Flacco's go to receiver, especially on third down. Just his presence on the field seems to make the Ravens pass attack better. You can count on Smith to get five to 10 targets in any game, and with the lowly Browns as the opponent this week, Smith will be busy. The Browns have allowed 12 touchdowns and an average of 24.1 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
DONTRELLE INMAN (WR, Chargers)
Travis Benjamin aggravated the sprained ligament in his knee and played just eight snaps in Week 9 before leaving. Inman was the primary beneficiary in that he ended up being targeted nine times; he caught six passes for 56 yards. Benjamin could be held out of Week 10 since the Chargers have a Week 11 bye, thereby giving him an extended rest. If so, Inman could be a flex consideration for Week 10.
LANCE KENDRICKS (TE, Rams)
Kendricks has received 29 targets over the last three games, 12 in the Week 9 matchup against the Panthers. Without a doubt, Kendricks has become one of Case Keenum's favorite receivers. The Rams have matchups against the Falcons in Week 14 and the 49ers in Week 16. Those favorable matchups during the fantasy playoffs make Kendricks worth stashing.
RICHARD RODGERS (TE, Packers)
Rodgers was targeted 10 times in Week 9 and ended up with six receptions for 64 yards, his best game of the season. The Packers have several favorable matchups against teams that allow significantly more fantasy points to tight ends over the next six weeks, making Rodgers another good player to stash if you're thin at tight end.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com